Marco City Council passes vote of no confidence in Grifoni

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Jared Grifoni

Even among skeptics, the level of discontent and dysfunction on the Marco Island City Council was made abundantly clear during Monday's meeting.

The Marco Island City Council passed 4-3 a vote of no confidence in Chairman Jared Grifoni, as a split council volleyed for position.

Seconds after a motion for the no-confidence vote was made by Councilor Joe Batte, Grifoni called it "frivolous" and ineffective, setting off more back-and-forth arguments among the council.

“You cannot continue council business with this cloud overhead, with the involvement and some of the documentation we’ve seen, without making some sort of change to show our people we are not going to continue down this road merrily, merrily, merrily,” Batte said. “This is insane and you step up and call me frivolous. I was elected by the same people you were.”

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Monday’s contentious meeting was set into motion following the release of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office incident report on the misdemeanor battery charge filed against former City Manager Lee Niblock.

The 33-page report detailed the involvement of city officials, including Grifoni and Larry Honig, once they learned of a Jan. 31 incident involving Niblock and Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott.

Niblock was arrested last month and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

A separate battery complaint has also surfaced in Alachua County stemming from an incident last year when Niblock was the county administrator. That incident was reported after the Marco Island investigation was made public.

Batte called for Grifoni to step down at previous meetings, but to no avail.

Both Honig and Grifoni have denied any wrongdoing and referred to the accusations as a witch-hunt.

“If you really think I’m stupid enough to lie under oath to a county law enforcement official, I feel sorry for your thought processes,” Honig said during Monday’s meeting.

The move by the council, however, epitomized the lack of unity on the council as it could not even agree on what the proper rules of procedure were to handle Batte’s motion.

In calling for a point of order, Councilor Howard Reed read from the rules of procedure and stated that an appeal of the chairman’s decision could be heard, which led to a 4-3 vote to hear Batte’s motion on the vote of no confidence.

Councilors Charlette Roman, Bob Brown, Reed and Batte voted to appeal Grifoni's decision before voting in favor of the motion of no confidence.

Councilors Victor Rios, Grifoni and Honig voted against the appeal and the vote of no confidence.

The passage of a vote of no confidence is more of a symbolic gesture as Grifoni will continue to wield the gavel and continued to represent the city of Marco Island at Tuesday’s Collier County Board of Commissioners meeting, where the city’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application was heard.

Grifoni called Batte’s motion ineffective as he dug his heels in and declared he would not step down as chair.

Grifoni also took issue with comments criticizing his performance as chair and use of the position to defend himself.

“Disagreement with the ruling of the chair does not equal abuse,” Grifoni said. “You just disagree with the ruling of the chair and you have every right as you did tonight, Councilor Reed.”

As the final vote was cast, Batte turned to Grifoni and said: “I hope you learned your lesson.”

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